ANNC: Conference: "Through the Looking Glass of the Local: Rereading Istanbul's Heterogeneous Pasts" (Göttingen, 28-29 September 2017)

Jeremy Walton's picture

Dear Colleagues,

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Göttingen, Germany, next week, I welcome you to join us at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diveristy (MPI-MMG) for the conference, "Through the Looking Glass of the Local: Rereading Istanbul's Heterogeneous Pasts." My research group, "Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities," will be organizing and sponsoring the event. You'll find more information about the conference below. Please do not hesitate to contact me at if you would like to attend.


Jeremy F. Walton

Through the Looking Glass of the Local: Rereading Istanbul’s Heterogeneous Pasts

Hosted by “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities”

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Göttingen, Germany

28-29 September 2017

Like any city of its size and longevity (but, then, is there any other city of both its size and longevity?), Istanbul can only be described by way of a series of contrasts that both demand and defy reconciliation: both palimpsest of historical strata and kaleidoscope of the contemporary; both text to be interpreted and object that frustrates interpretation; both brand commodity and site of silenced memories; both consumerist utopia and dystopian urban noir; both target of political-economic projects and uneven topography of powers past and present; both mundane lifeworld and myth; both the reflective nostalgia of lugubrious hüzün and the restorative nostalgia of Neo-Ottoman pomp; both May 1st and May 27th; both Gezi and Çamlıca. This list is necessarily incomplete; indeed, its incompletion is perhaps its most suggestive characteristic. Our conference, “Through the Looking Glass of the Local: Rereading Istanbul’s Pasts through Its Myriad Spaces,” foregrounds the resolute heterogeneity of Istanbul by emphasizing the formative, perspectival relationship between historical narratives of the city and spaces and places within it. How do specific spaces and sites—buildings, monuments, streets, mahalles—encourage certain histories and memories while silencing others? Which chronotopes now dominate broad discourses about the city as a whole? And what counter-histories and heterotopias emerge from taking the differentiated space of the city seriously? At a time when Istanbul  is uniquely targeted by both ideological and political economic powers seeking to extract surplus historical value from the city’s dense past, questions such as these are not only templates for scholarly endeavor, but sounding alarms urging attention.


Day One, 28 September

9:30 – 10:15 Welcome, opening remarks, Jeremy F. Walton, Empires of Memory, MPI-MMG

10:15 – 10:30  Coffee Break

10:30 – 12:30  Panel One: Neo-Ottoman Echoes and Post-Ottoman Erasures

Çiğdem Buğdaycı, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis: “The Dead Who is Alive: The Culture of Death in the Post-Ottoman Istanbul”

Josh Carney, University of South Florida, “Channeling the Ottoman Past: Popular Television and the Medium of Burial Sites in Neo-Ottoman Istanbul”

Respondent: Piro Rexhepi, Empires of Memory, MPI-MMG

12:30 – 13:30  Lunch for conference participants

13:30 – 15:30  Panel Two: Narrating Time and the City

Timur Hammond, Syracuse University: “The Just Lived Past: Istanbul Through the Eyes of Süheyl Ünver and Ali Saim Ülgen”

Suzan Meryem Rosita, European University Institute: “Survival, Speech and Silence: Trauma in Western Armenian Literature”

Charles Sabatos, “Nostalgia for Istanbul/Constantinople in Patrick Leigh Fermor and Kurban Said”

Respondent: Miloš Jovanović, Empires of Memory, MPI-MMG

15:30 - 17:30 Film Screening, "“Skopje-Sarajevo-Salonika: A Post-Ottoman Trilogy,” by Piro Rexhepi, Empires of Memory, MPI-MMG

Day Two, 29 September

10:00 – 12:00 Keynote Lecture, Edhem Eldem, Boğaziçi University

12:00 – 13:00 Lunch for conference participants

13:00 – 15:00 Panel Three: Locations of the Past

Aynur de Rouen, State University of New York, Binghamton: “Community Resilience: Negotiating Space in Post-Ottoman Istanbul Neighbourhoods”

Nagihan Haliloğlu, Fatih Sultan Mehmet University: “Recasting Imperial Pasts and Palimpsest in Balat, Istanbul”

Enno Maessen, University of Amsterdam: “The City Isn’t What It Used to Be! Post-imperial Beyoğlu from the Perspective of Three Local Institutions”

Respondent: Giulia Carabelli, Empires of Memory/MPI-MMG

15:00 – 15:15 Coffee Break

15:15 – 16:00 Closing remarks and discussion